Chicago Tribune: Taking aim at concussions in professional football

August 2, 2018

One NFL record last season was a reminder of the serious challenges to the popularity and long-term viability of professional football. In the 2017 season, 291 concussions were diagnosed — affecting one out of every 11 players. In other words, of the 22 players you see trot out onto the field for the first play from scrimmage, you can expect that two of them won’t finish the season without an acute traumatic injury to the brain.

During the offseason, the NFL acted to reduce this alarming risk. Its new rule is simple and stark. Any player who “lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent” will be flagged for unnecessary roughness at a cost of 15 yards. For severe violations, players will be ejected.

This is stricter than college football’s targeting rule, which bans any hit to a defenseless player’s head or neck and typically involves a receiver leveled by a defensive back. And the NFL ban applies to offensive as well as defensive players, including linemen.

The human consequences of CTE — memory loss, depression, dementia and more — are enormous. Even the NFL’s financial health is at risk. It entered a settlement that obligates it to compensate hundreds of former players, with the total amount expected to surpass $1 billion. The league is under intense pressure to find ways to minimize the risk to its athletes.

— Chicago Tribune

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